By Mark Nardone
Blue Cow Software

A century ago, virtually every home in America included at least one item purchased from Sears, Roebuck & Co., often ordered from the company’s iconic catalog. Today, Sears is teetering on the edge of insolvency, having been replaced – in a dizzying rush – by an upstart founded just 24 years ago called Amazon. How did this happen? And what lessons can your fuel oil or propane business learn from the rapid growth and success Amazon has enjoyed?

The answers come from Jeff Bezos, the visionary founder of Amazon, whose innovation and determination helped push the company to become one of the world’s largest. His relentless focus on the customer, continuous innovation, and attention to detail have made him an example of what “success” looks like in the 21st century.

“What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.” – Jeff Bezos

This is where the leadership at Sears failed the company, its shareholders, and its customers. Sears lost sight of the vision and daring of its founders. Instead of seeking to innovate, the company settled in a prepared to defend the ground it had gained. It changed from an implement of change, to an institution unwilling (and eventually, unable) to change. More nimble competitors eroded its market share by being more flexible.

Amazon is the perfect example of what innovation and vision can deliver. Bezos and his leadership team never stop looking for the next great idea. They make sure operations can run smoothly so they can focus on the future.

What are you doing in your business to innovate for the future? It may be diversifying your product line, shifting your emphasis from delivery to service, or finding ways to make it easier for your customers to order a delivery or schedule a service call. Keep pushing.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos

Amazon does not sell anything that is not available in a store or from another online retailer. But they do it better than anyone else. Why? Because they make the experience of buying from Amazon easy, enjoyable, and hassle-free.

“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.” – Jeff Bezos

Do you find yourself constantly looking at your competitors to see what they are doing? Perhaps you check their retail prices every morning to see if they are lower than yours. Or you feel you have to offer free service to new customers because the guy across town is doing it.

Focusing on the competition means you have less time and energy to focus on your own business and your customers. You can never know the “inside story” that leads a competing dealer to drop their price, offer an incentive, or make any other business decision. You need to pay attention to what you can control – your own company and its customers.

“If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.” – Jeff Bezos

Bezos may be a “big picture” guy, but he has a firm grasp on what is going on within Amazon at all times. He follows the money, monitoring performance in his various operations using the most accurate measurement – numbers. Decisions are never made on a “gut feeling,” but are based on the most up-to-date information, combined with a trend analysis. This is not something limited to giant international corporations. With the right management tools, set up for your business, you can keep a close eye on what is working, what needs to be fixed, and where you should focus next.

“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” – Jeff Bezos

Not everything Jeff Bezos tried worked right away. Some things did not work at all. But each venture was given the resources, support and time it needed to prove itself a success or failure. When you decide to try something new, go all-in with the time and attention it needs. Be quick to innovate and slow to call a halt.

What can Blue Cow Software do to help you innovate and grow? Find out by clicking here or calling us at (888) 499-2583.